Show Reviews

Show Review: Summer Slaughter Still Slays

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Summer Slaughter 2013 Poster

Summer Slaughter’s gotten a lot of bad press this year – not brutal enough, not enough death metal, too many scene kids and IMNs. But though these bands don’t all share the same fascination with blasturbation, the majority of them have one thing in common: they’re nearly all bands that MetalSucks loves to suck off. There are loads of death metal tours this year, and though the audience vibes can fracture when bands don’t exactly match up along genre lines, there’s no other time when you can see Revocation next to Cattle Decapitation and The Ocean. My high expectations were mostly met when I checked out the tour last Friday on its opening date at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco.

I’m probably the only writer here who thinks so, but I find that Thy Art is Murder’s technicality and compositional skills propel them beyond the legions of shred-challenged deathcore slobs. On their first performance in North America, they proved themselves worthy of the internet hype. Drummer Lee Stanton especially tore it up; the mix and rhythms were rolled tighter than a king-size blunt, generating explosive pits via ridiculously emphatic bass drops. Though I dig Thy Art, I’ve always frowned on Rings of Saturn’s near-unlistenable wankery, but the band’s San Francisco set was a pleasant surprise. Technical difficulties limited their set to one song, “Immaculate Order,” which was moderately entertaining but still lacked intelligent compositional properties. Rings were only on for five minutes, during which vocalist Ian Bearer made a few deliciously unfunny attempts at humor. Personally, it was everything I would have wanted out of a Rings of Saturn set.

Aeon reintroduced solid musicianship to the lineup – with somewhat abstract lyrics, mid-low growls, and handfuls of blistering blasts, I find them adequate but unremarkable. Their mix was one of the better of the night, and they’re more technically proficient than I initially thought, but it was still hard to get excited. In contrast, witnessing my first live performance of Revocation was an inspiration, and fully reversed my previous (inarticulable and misguided) biases against the band. The band’s heaviness manifests far greater in a live setting, and Dave Davidson’s absurd ability to perform vocals while liquefying fretboards has to be seen to be believed. The sludgy stomp at the end of “Teratogenesis” was especially thunderous, and Dave tossed in a fitting guitar rendition of the banjo shred in “Invidious.”

You all know how I feel about The Ocean Collective at this point, but their set was cut from 30 minutes to 25 at the last second and their performance couldn’t live up to the band’s capabilities. With a thin guitar tone and a generally hollow stage sound, the first half of the set felt strangely empty, especially with the crowd’s appreciative but confused response. Luc Hess’s sparse drumkit still roared with emphasis alongside Loic’s lofty vocals in closer “Hadopelagic II,” but this just wasn’t the environment for The Ocean to thrive in. However, it was the perfect environment for the furious pandemonium of Cattle Decapitation. Spewing snot, spit, and sweat in time with static and strobe, Travis Ryan snarled and gurgled over a cacophonic stomp of clicky kick drums and spastic guitar slides. I usually consider Cattle underappreciated, but on Friday the venue was packed and the pits were almost as nasty as the imagery from Monolith of Inhumanity. Norma Jean continued Cattle’s standard of volume abuse and grinding, abrasive vocalizations, blending soulful dissonance with aggressive rhythms. Though the crowd response was initially hesitant, the band’s exuberant stage performance eventually galvanized both karake kickers and headbangers into action. Norma Jean’s rendition of “Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste” towards the end of the set was one of the heaviest performances I’ve seen all year. 

It’s easy to drench Periphery in feces, but maybe that just makes us all coprophiliacs because even the toughest IMN would be hard pressed to argue that Periphery aren’t still damn fun in a live setting. Spencer’s clean vocals need work, but the grooves of favorites like “Zyglrox” and “Icarus Lives” never get old, bouncing alongside evocative angular melodies. The band’s infinite supply of guitars, not to mention the kids in polyester Mario and Teletubby suits romping around the pit, kept things entertaining. Animals As Leaders unfortunately did not. For some reason they insist on playing their monotonous over-djenty Weightless material over the intelligent articulations of their self-titled release. This was the fifth time I’ve seen Animals, and forty minutes can be hard to stomach even for guitar nerds. Tosin, Javier, and Matt are incredible musicians, but if it weren’t for the fractal projections, there wouldn’t be much to latch onto in their performance.

I’m not sure how it happened, but Friday night was the first opportunity I had to pop my Dillinger Escape Plan cherry. My expectations were more than met: my cherry didn’t just pop; it was pitted, flung across the room, and crushed into a pulpy, scattered mass. The band’s barely comprehensible mix of dissonance and frenetic rhythms seemed to unite the disparities between the remaining audience members, who formed a sweaty, piled mass that groped with every opportunity at the best frontman in modern metal. Ben Weinman showed no visible symptoms of his hand injury, diving into the crowd with Greg. Surprisingly, Dillinger didn’t perform an encore, providing a slightly anticlimactic end to a day that was nonetheless filled with hours of the best modern metal around.

The Summer Slaughter tour continues through August 16. Get remaining dates here.

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